Sunday, July 15, 2012

Has the Fight of HIV/AIDS become simply a profit-margin?

Have we become our own worst enemies in the fight of HIV/AIDS? Without doubt there have been huge advancements within the area of HIV/AIDS through the years, but I feel as if there is currently a disconnect between those that provide services and those in which the services are meant for. I write this blog as a person who is HIV Positive and during the last year has faced drug relapse, homelessness and unemployment. Through all of this however there has been one thing that has been constant; my activism/advocacy of HIV/AIDS. I am not alone with these struggles and unfortunately I am simply another statistic. I am very vocal about my story but there are many others out there that for one reason or another are not as vocal.

Have you ever tried to get a job with an AIDS Service Organization (ASO)? Let me just say that you would have an easier time getting an appointment to have tea with the Queen or a lunch date with the President. Over the past year I have applied repeatedly with AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) all over the United States simply to be dismissed or notified that I was not the best fit for the position. That begs the question, "Who is the best fit for the position other than people living with HIV/AIDS?" As I write this I know that people are going to call me an extremist or tell me that I am possibly jaded  and bitter. I am not jaded or bitter I am simply frustrated as hell that my voice is not being listened to in an effort to shape services provided to those living with HIV/AIDS.

To say that I have been frustrated with AIDS Services Organizations (ASO) lately would be a gross under-statement. Frankly, I am pissed off. Most, if not all, AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) were founded during a time in which our society was trying to make sense of this disease that we now know as AIDS. At that time it was termed as either G.R.I.D. (Gay Resistance Immune Disorder) or a Gay Cancer. Eventually people fought to have the name changed because it simply is not a gay disease. Over the years, family and friends of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS created organizations and groups to provide services and education for those living with HIV/AIDS. Today however, we have progressed to a very different time in which these service organizations have forgotten that there are a group of activists and advocates that are living with HIV/AIDS;  the very clients in which they serve. We are a group of advocates and activists that for one reason or another simply cannot find work within this field even though we are subject-matter experts.

Yes it pisses me off that I can go into an AIDS Service Organization yet never talk to a single person that is HIV Positive or living with AIDS. The question that I have to ask is "What the fuck to do know about HIV/AIDS"? I am not saying that you must be HIV positive to be an effective advocate or activist however it certainly provides us with a unique knowledge that simply cannot be learned out of a book or through a graduate social work program. Wake up AIDS Service Organizations and realize that you have to engage those that you are suppose to be serving. Allow us to give back and to make a different in our own lives. People that are living with HIV/AIDS do not want to be dependant on programs but rather we want to be involved in every aspect of education, prevention and treatment.

Additionally what benefit is it for the HIV/AIDS movement to have publications and media if they do not represent the very least among us? I mean the ordinary stories of people who are fighting in their own towns yet never get their story told. I suppose that until it is profitable for an HIV/AIDS magazine or website to publish their stories it simply will not happen.

If it were not for YouTube and other social media tools my story would not be out there for the world to hear. Currently over 68,000 people have watched my videos and daily I get messages from around the world, from those living with HIV/AIDS to those that are newly diagnosed and those that are wanting to get involved.

If you are tired of simply being a statistic, stand up with me and tell AIDS Service Organizations and HIV/AIDS media publications that we have a voice. Force them to tell your stories, the real stories and not simply the ones that are profitable or meets a particular agenda.

Aaron M. Laxton


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